BOCA RATON, Fla.-- Tall palm trees behind James Crabtree's property in Boca Raton used to be a problem for power lines.
"When we had any wind it came down [palm fronds] on the electrical wires and it sparked," said Crabtree.
During hurricanes Matthew and Irma, Crabtree said he lost power for long periods of time.
"It's tough. It's been out, two, three weeks at a time," said Crabtree.
But now his home is one of 51 homes in his Palm Beach Farms neighborhood that gets power through underground lines.
"We've identified those areas that are prone to outages, prone to vegetation-related outages, and were out for extended periods during hurricanes Irma and Matthew and we’ve targeted them to go underground," said Mike Fetto, Lead Project Manager for FPL in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
The FPL storm-secure underground program is a 3-year pilot to try to improve reliability; but every homeowner in a neighborhood that meets the criteria for construction has to be on board.
"The only pushback would be that a customer has to provide us an easement," said Fetto.
Every homeowner in that neighborhood has to give FPL permission to run an individual power line underneath their private property and install a juncture box next to their meter. Crabtree said that during the two month project, he barely noticed any disruptions.
"You couldn't even tell, no damage anywhere," he said.
Fetto said a new transformer box is installed at ground level.
"This box provides power to roughly 5 to 8 houses at a time," said Fetto.
The underground line from the transformer box runs to the juncture box added next to the existing meter. The power lines are removed from the power poles and the poles are cut down about 10 to 15 feet just above the lines that belong to other utilities.
FPL says the underground power lines perform much better than the overhead ones during a storm. Areas prone to flooding are not being considered for the pilot test.
"We're looking forward to the next wind event to test it out," said Crabtree.
Several projects have been completed in Palm Beach County. FPL plans to start working in another neighborhood in West Palm Beach next month. Underground conversion is not new to FPL, but this pilot program is focusing on neighborhoods with data showing significant outages during storms and is being offered at no additional costs to select homeowners.
If you'd like to inquire about underground conversion for your neighborhood or business area, you can contact FPL.